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Geraint Thomas: My Giro what ifs and bouncing back for the Tour de France

By /Cycling News

 

Three weeks after crashing out of the Giro d’Italia, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) returns to racing at the Route du Sud this week as he gears up for the Tour de France, where he could be Team Sky’s second card to play on GC. In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews, Thomas reveals how team principal Dave Brailsford had to make the call to pull the Welshman from the Giro, how Richie Porte will push Team Sky to the limit in July, and how he’s keeping his options open for 2019 - and that if he leaves Team Sky it won’t be for the money.

Thomas headed into May’s Giro d’Italia as a legitimate podium candidate after an impressive spring but, on stage 9, he and teammate Mikel Landa were taken down by a poorly parked police motorbike. Although Thomas finished the stage and bounced back with a strong ride in the individual time trial on stage 10, he was forced to pull out on medical advice at the end of stage 12.

It was a bitterly disappointing moment for the former track specialist, who, after several years of riding in the services of others, had earned the right to lead a team at a Grand Tour.

"It was Dave [Brailsford] who made the final call, and it was the night before I eventually pulled out," Thomas told Cyclingnews. “My knee was sore, and the pain was only getting worse and coming earlier in the stages. If it was my shoulder that was worse, then it would have been fine but the fact you’re pedalling, it’s not going to help the knee get better. Dave was chatting to me in the evening of stage 11, and he was going to leave it up to me, but you never want to leave a race, even when in the back of your mind it’s the right thing to do.

“I just told the guys to make the call for me, and that was pretty much it. We had a chat before dinner and then after we ate Dave came and told me that I was going back to Manchester to get checked out and make sure that everything was okay before the Tour.”

 

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Even though the pain was holding Thomas back there was still hope that he could continue, recover and perhaps even rally in the final week. However, hearing the words ‘we’re sending you home’ hit Thomas like a tonne of bricks. After months of sacrifice, all hope had evaporated and the dream – for this year at least – was over.

“It wasn’t nice,” he says trying to play down the decision but with his emotions clearly still raw.

“When you say ‘you’re leaving’ out loud it hits home more than if it was just in your head. When you say it out loud, it’s hard to take, especially as that was my chance in a Grand Tour. I never really got going and it was hard to take.”

Thomas packed his bags that evening and said his farewells to his remaining teammates. The following morning Team Sky issued their press release on the subject and Thomas flew directly to Manchester for a medical check-up. Luckily, there was no serious damage to the shoulder or knee but the following weeks were an emotional battle. Thomas didn’t touch the bike for a week and tuned out of anything to do with the Giro - a difficult task considering just how entertaining the race became, and also because Thomas could have been a telling factor in the final outcome. He is similar to Tom Dumoulin in method and style, matched Thibaut Pinot in warm-up races, and, with Nairo Quintana far from is best, the race was wide open.

“I avoided all the results and didn’t watch any of it on the telly. The only time I saw any of it was when I went to my mum and dad’s and my dad turned it on and that was my cue to leave,” he says with a laugh.

“There were just so many what ifs. You can go crazy if you think about that too much. Once it was over it got a bit easier. I just had to focus on the next thing. It was still tough and even now you feel yourself drifting back in your mind as to what happened but you can’t let yourself do that.”

Back on the bike

Although Team Sky were quick to announce that Thomas would recalibrate and aim for the Tour de France – it was part of the release issued on his Giro withdrawal – it was a sentiment that needed more than just words. Physically, Thomas was still in decent shape but mentally he needed a break and, once back on the bike, he had to ease his way back into training.

"It was quite hard as the Giro was meant to be the big hit of the year and I was reaching peak form for that. To come down from there and then try and carry that form into the Tour has been quite hard but hopefully I can still go there in decent shape and still do a good job," he said.

"All the injuries from the crash are okay now. I’ve still got to do some physio on the shoulder but it doesn’t affect me on the bike now. It’s all about trying to feel good again and that’s taken a bit of time but I started to feel a bit better last weekend.

"Initially it was harder mentally than physically, but once I got back on my bike the Tour gave me that focus. If I hadn’t had the Tour as the focus I think that I would have struggled a lot more. If it was the Vuelta, or something, I think that I would have been three kilos heavier now and half riding my bike and half plodding along. It’s been good in that sense but at the same time it had been going well since the start of March and it’s hard mentally to try and get back up to that level but we’ll see.

“Then it was just a few steady rides and then last week I started doing more steady efforts. At the start I felt terrible. It felt like I was back in January but I think it was a mental thing because I expected to start off where I left off. I felt a lot better last weekend and I’m now I’m just looking forward to four days of good racing. Then it’s only two weeks until the Tour.”

After a few steady rides Thomas began to ramp up his workload and last week he headed to the mountains with Wout Poels for a training camp. The pair linked up with Chris Froome and several other riders, with Team Sky’s Tour de France squad starting to take shape three weeks from the Grand Départ.

Backing Froome and fending off Porte

Thomas’ Tour de France role has not yet been entirely clarified but, assuming he comes through the Route du Sud, then he should line up as Team Sky’s and Chris Froome’s last man in the mountains come July. It’s a role that Thomas has occupied in the past and one that he has revelled in, with two top-15 rides in the last two editions of the race. Given his Giro disappointment there is the hint that Thomas will be given greater freedom at the Tour and, although the phrase ‘Plan B’ has not yet been used by the team’s management, it’s a genuine possibility for the Welshman.

“We’ll see when we get there. I think, tactically, that having two guys close will help in the first week. It gives you cards to play and a lot of teams have two cards to play now with Orica, Astana, and Movistar. If it’s like the Dauphiné, just chaos, then it could help having someone up the road, but I’ll have to see how I am once we get into the race. I’m confident. I don’t know if I’ll be pinging like I was going into the Giro but it will be nice if I am. I just want three weeks without having any bad luck. The Giro form was the best I ever had.”

That said, Froome heads to the Tour as Sky’s numero uno having won the race three times in the last four years. Although his form at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné – and throughout 2017 – has not reached its previous heights, he will start the race as the man to beat.

Former teammate, Richie Porte, is arguably Froome’s greatest pre-race threat having dropped Froome several times at the Dauphiné and taken second overall.

“I’ve always said from the start of the year that Richie is the main threat. I don’t know about favourite tags. That’s for you guys to label but I’m confident that Froome is going to be at his best for sure. Porte will be up there, Astana look strong, and Contador is going to improve. Then you’ve got Movistar and it’s going to be an exciting race. Even if Chris is as good as he’s been in the past I think a few more people will have grown in confidence after the Dauphiné but I’m sure he’s going to be up there and as good as ever.”

And while the Tour de France remains the main focus, Thomas has long-term decisions to make, too. He is out of contract at the end of the season but has the option of another year on Team Sky. He confirmed that he is likely to re-sign along with Chris Froome and Ian Stannard. Although 2019 is a long way off, the Welshman has started thinking that far ahead.

“I’ve a contract option for one more year. I’ve not signed anything yet but I’m sure I’ll stay for that year. I’m getting good chances and it’s working. Post that, I’ll be up for seeing what’s around. I won’t go to any old team and it’s not about the money. It has to be a good fit and a team that can support me. I’ll take that on next year. A lot can change in sport so we’ll see.”

2019 is a long way off and, for now, all Thomas wants is three weeks of racing without any bad luck. After what happened at the Giro that’s probably the least he deserves.

Video link: https://youtu.be/0YGxUzStMYE

No longer NBA champions, Cavaliers are now chasing Warriors

By: Associated Press 

 

James spectacular again, but his efforts not enough for CavsNews

CLEVELAND — Once he congratulated Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, LeBron James left the floor following Game 5 and found Kyrie Irving waiting for him.

Cleveland’s two stars embraced, and as they headed toward the locker room and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played inside thundering Oakland’s Oracle Arena, James delivered a message to his teammate and the world.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ll be back.”


They were fabulous and flawed defending NBA champs, their deficiencies in depth and defense exposed by a superior team in the Finals.

One year after their historic comeback, James and the Cavaliers couldn’t catch the Golden State Warriors.

Unable to defend their title despite the league’s highest payroll, rampaging through the Eastern Conference playoffs and James’ brilliance against the free-wheeling Warriors for five games, the Cavs are no longer the team to beat. They’re still championship caliber, but a step or two behind a glittering Golden State team that went 81-18 in Durant’s first season and built for the long haul.

At 32, and playing as well as ever in 14 seasons, James has a possible dynasty blocking his path.

“I need to sit down and figure this thing out,” said James, who averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in his seventh consecutive Finals. “They’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. … From my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

The Cavaliers aren’t constructed for the same longevity.

James is under contract for one more season, and there’s no guarantee the three-time champion and five-time Finals loser will sign a long-term deal in 2018 with Cleveland despite his deep devotion to Northeast Ohio. Last week, James said he didn’t know how many years he has left. It’s possible that his outside business interests, which include a desire to one day own an NBA team, could push him into retirement.

That’s down the road. A more pressing concern for the team is the status of general manager David Griffin, whose contract expires on June 30.

Aided by having James to build around and owner Dan Gilbert’s willingness to spend, Griffin has assembled and overseen a roster that has made three straight Finals and is positioned to stay atop the East.

Griffin has been with the club since 2010, taking over as GM when Chris Grant was fired in 2014. He’s the one who persuaded Irving to sign a long-term deal with Cleveland before it was known that James was coming back and Griffin pulled off the trade for Kevin Love. He acquired veterans J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in 2015, fired coach David Blatt and promoted Tyronn Lue midway through the ’16 season and added Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut this year.

Gilbert and Griffin are expected to meet again this week. Griffin has been linked to past openings in Orlando, Atlanta and Milwaukee, but his preference is to stay with Cleveland as he and his wife, Meredith, have immersed themselves in the community.

Once the front office situation is settled, the next priorities are addressing Cleveland’s weaknesses: defense, an aging bench and backup point guard.

The Cavaliers couldn’t stop the Warriors during critical stretches in the Finals, and there were warning signs long before Durant got free for dunks, Curry drained wide-open 3-pointers or Golden State averaged 121.6 points.

Cleveland’s defense was suspect all season, ranking among the worst in statistical efficiency. The Cavs often outscored their mistakes, but the lack of a rim protector (Bogut was injured in his first minute on the floor) and a defensive commitment proved costly. Both areas must be fixed.

Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and Deron Williams contributed during the regular season and earlier rounds against Indiana, Toronto and Boston, but with the exception of Jefferson, the seasoned vets were overmatched against the younger, quicker Warriors. Cleveland needs an infusion of young blood to fix a second unit that struggled from the opener.

Then there’s Love, who went just 2 of 8 in Game 5 and had 1-of-9 and 4-of-13 shooting performances earlier in the Finals. The All-Star forward has been the subject of trade rumblings in the past and his name is certain to surface this summer as contending teams look for that missing piece to close the gap on Golden State.

For James, second place is no consolation, not when success is measured by championship rings. There was no shame in falling for the second time in three years to the Warriors, a 73-win team that needed Durant to dethrone James.

His new challenge is to get back on top.

“Teams and franchises are going to be trying to figure out ways that they can put personnel together, the right group of guys together to be able to hopefully compete against this team,” he said. “They’re assembled as good as you can assemble, and I played against some really, really good teams that was assembled perfectly, and they’re right up there.”

 

Philippines stays on top in Group F

By EDRI K. AZNAR/SunStar

 

Photo: Tough one. After a tough loss to China, the Philippine men’s football team regrouped and won over Tajikistan

 

DESPITE missing some key players, the Philippines still remained at the top of Group F in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers with a 4-3 win over home team Tajikistan last Tuesday night at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Azkals lost some key offensive players in Hikaru Minegishi and Jeffrey Christiaens due to injuries but the team didn’t lack any firepower in taking an early 3-0 lead. Skipper Phil Younghusband scored the opening goal in the 28th minute after curling in a free kick that went past Tajik goalie Abduaziz Mahkamov. Prolific striker Javier Patiño hit back-to-back goals, one in the 41st and the other in the 48th minute, to give the Philippines a comfortable 3-0 lead early in the second half. Tajikistan finally got their offense going after Parvizjon Umarboev converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute against Azkals goalkeeper Patrick Deyto, who filled in the shoes for star goalie Neil Etheridge. Dilshod Vasiev scored the second goal just four minutes later. Defender Daisuke Sato, however, scored the dagger in the 79th minute with a strike outside the box. Manuchehr Dzhalilov answered with a consolation goal in the 90th minute for Tajikistan but it was too late for the hosts. “We congratulate our national team for their second win in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. This was a perfect response after last week’s loss in a friendly with China PR. The win increased our chances for a place in the 2019 Asian Cup,” PFF general-secretary Atty. Ed Gastanes said in an statement. The Philippines takes the solo lead of Group F with six points after the win and a scoreless draw between Yemen and Nepal. Yemen sits at second place with four points. Nepal is third with 1 point and is just ahead of Tajikistan on goal difference. The Azkals will face Yemen next in a home match on Sept. 5 in Bacolod.

 

Great escape for Beermen

By: Musong R. Castillo - Reporter / @MusongINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

 

With one flick of the wrist and the ball kissing off the glass, Marcio Lassiter came up with the most unbelievable shot to cap a mind-boggling end to Game 3 on Wednesday night that put San Miguel Beer right back where the Beermen were in pre-series predictions with Star—at the top.

Lassiter hit the marginal triple with 1.6 seconds left that gave the Beermen a 111-110 win over the Hotshots for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five Final Four series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup for the perfect ending to the high quality of basketball played at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was the kind of win that will give the Beermen all the morale boost and confidence they need—and the sort of a setback that could be enough to deflate the Hotshots—when Game 4 is played Friday night at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“One point (win)? It doesn’t matter. We’re one win away from another Finals,” San Miguel coach Leo Austria blurted out minutes later, aware that the Grand Slam run is still on track with two chances to nail a championship berth.
“I hope that we take care of business (in the next game),” he said in Filipino.

In the other Final Four series, the TNT KaTropa Texters take the first of three shots to nail a title series berth versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.

 

Jones and Shaw crowned 2017 Rapha Nocturne London Elite Criterium winners

An action-packed day of racing on the streets of the City of London

JLT Condor’s Brenton Jones was crowned 2017 men’s elite criterium winner at the Rapha Nocturne London on Saturday night as Drops Cycling’s Lucy Shaw emerged victorious in the women’s event. Finishing in a time of 36:28.484, Jones led home a JLT one-two as teammate Graham Briggs crossed the line in second, 0.150 seconds behind. Third place on the podium was taken by 2014 winner Tobyn Horton of Madison Genesis, who finished 0.354 seconds behind the winner. Click here for the Elite Mens race reuslts. 

In the women’s elite criterium, Shaw took the title in a time of 36:52.997, 0.257 seconds ahead of Storey Racinu Neah Evans. Elizabeth-Jane Harris took third, crossing the line 0.28 seconds after her Storey Racing teammate. Click here for the JLT Womens race reuslts.

 

Briggs and Evans lead the Rapha Nocturne Series standings heading to the second leg in Copenhagen on August 19.

The men’s and women’s elite races concluded an action-packed day of racing in the City of London, with penny farthing, folding bike and fixed gear among the many races to take place in the shadow of the city’s iconic St Paul’s Cathedral.

Men’s elite winner Jones said: “It was a race we wanted to win as a team. To win and get second with Graham Briggs is a great result.

“I started pretty far back and I didn’t get to the top five until about a kilometre to go but I paced it smart, I kept my cool all race and knew when I needed to get to the front and got the job done in the end.

“My teammates rode really well at the front and kept a nice lead out for me in the finish.”

 

Women’s elite winner Shaw said: “I’m really happy with that. It was straight off from the go, I was on the back foot.

“My teammate bridged across and I sat tight for a bit. We formed a really good group together and I had a really good lead out from my teammates at the end, so I was pleased with that.

“I was confident that could do well, but I knew the competition was going to be really fierce.”

image: https://keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/06/Womens-Elite-Race-Rapha-Nocturne.jpg

Rapha Nocturne Women's Elite

Images from the Women’s Elite Race during the Rapha Nocturne taking place at the Square Mile in the heart of London

 

The Rapha Nocturne London is part of a World Criterium Series with the next leg in Copenhagen, on August 19. For more information and to buy tickets go to www.raphanocturne.com

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, said: “We are proud to host an event of such magnitude in the Square Mile.

“The Rapha Nocturne not only brings together athletes but visitors from around the world, to the heart of London, in an impressive show of the diversity of the City of London.”


Read more at http://www.cyclingweekly.com/cycling-weekly/jones-shaw-crowned-2017-rapha-nocturne-london-elite-criterium-winners-335153#lFyeIBa8L6Xk15Lo.99

Tour de Suisse: Sagan comes close to 14th career stage win World champion has to settle for second to Matthews in Bern

By 

 

A stage winner in Bern at last year's Tour de France, world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had to settle for second place behind Michael Matthews on stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse. Since 2011, Sagan has won at least one stage of the WorldTour stage race and holds the race record with 13 stage wins.

The aggressive finale of the stage saw Trek-Segafredo take control on the uphill run with Sagan comfortable in the first few wheels. AG2R-La Mondiale's Domenico Pozzovivo caused a further selection of the fast men inside the final kilometre as he pushed the pace but couldn't drop the likes of Sagan, Matthews or John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).

Team Sunweb's Nikias Arndt took control of the finale as he dragged Matthews to the head of the reduced peloton with the Australian then finishing off of the sprint to claim the win. Against the barriers on the right-hand side of the road, Sagan had to settle for second place but hasn't given up on extending his winning run as he explained.

"It was another tough stage at the Tour de Suisse, with a hectic finale on a hot day. The squad perfectly executed the plan we had in the morning," said Sagan, who was eighth on stage 2. "My sensations were good and I gave it my best, but unfortunately in the final sprint, I got closed and took second. We will try again in the coming days."

Bora-Hansgrohe director Jan Valach added that he was happy with how the team rode the stage and ensured the sprint final despite the tough parcours. Valach explained that the team is likely to give Sagan a day off for stage 4 due to the hard finish in Villars-sur-Ollon.

"The squad worked really well today. The plan was to let just a small group break away, and this is what took place. Juraj Sagan pulled at the front, together with BMC, then Maciej Bodnar put in a solid effort and we reeled in the escapees with less than 15km to go," Valach said. "They positioned Peter at the front in the final kilometre but he was pipped on the line by Matthews. Tomorrow we have a short stage for the climbers, with a climb and then a summit finish, and we will try our best with Patrick Konrad and Jay McCarthy."

Sagan will have several more opportunities to add to his haul of Suisse wins and fine tune his winning form ahead of next month's Tour de France. Sagan is aiming to continue his green jersey winning streak and equal Erik Zabel's record of six consecutive victories in the sprint 

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